once upon a time...

Now, I ‘m not going to say that young love has suddenly been discovered or that until the advent of modern Young Adult (YA for those who are savvy) couples just kind of sat around and hummed bars of kum-ba-yah and ate Kraft singles. Modern YA though, seems to have become a delightfully romantic and intense thing with its fusion of fantasy, medieval or futuristic genres. The girls are full of angst and woe and the boys masculine yet vulnerable. We do get a plethora of contemporary love stories where she’s into him but he wants her best friend but the best friend is busy eyeing off the captain of the water polo team who also sings with a soprano like voice and can polanaise to the tune of ‘Ride Around Sally.’ Personally, I admire a good love tangle so the messier it gets, the more I hyperventilate.  These knots of desire do not preclude intelligent writing and intuitive characters who fall in love because they see something shining and golden in each other. Let us not forget The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil that was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Awards in 2015. It was sharp, desperate and amazing. Brought a tear to my eye and my husband’s because whenever I start to feel dreamily romantic it costs him money. Young love does not mean dumb love or insipid writing. That intensity that new couples feel to find each other and be together is a universal theme.

A sterling example of this meaty, vibrant writing is Kat Spear’s Sway.  When a man (or teenage boy) claims that ‘ he knew all her faults but loved her anyway’ then I’m hooked like a Boesemani Rainbow Fish on a Carrot Stix fishing rod. Bridget Smalley is our heroine and she’s REAL. People, places and life matters to her and she’s not some object that can be bartered for or dealed way. Jesse Alderman, our hero, is a high school swindler, not exactly bad but rather sooty around the edges. People are commodities and he doesn’t do close relationships. He’s cynical, hard on his fellow man, ‘he’s just another loser in a sea of mediocrity.’ See the potential knot? BRIDGET IS NICE AND JESSE-NOT SO NICE. The writing is funny (old people in homes are being warehoused for death) and wicked (I don’t date girls like that because next thing you know there’s a small woodland creature boiling in a pot on your stove top). I’m a big fan of naughty and nice so this book works for me on a multiple of levels. I recommend it purely for the joy of reminding yourself that love really is the sweetener in a very salty world. Cmon!! That was sheer beauty right there.

sway - book coverIt’s the struggle that makes it worth it.

I did promise you futuristic/medieval/dystopian fairytale love stories and Kiera Cass’s The Selection fits the bill.  If I was teaching Pop Culture 101 the connection between reality T.V., gothic narrative conventions and post modern genres would be obvious. Think Twilight or The Hunger Games. The Selection is an amalgamation of all these styles and YA at the moment is under a deluge of similar stories and characters. This is not necessarily a bad thing if the writer can write and Kiera Cass can narrate a solid story. It has a definite ‘Brave New World’ feel to it with its tight societal structure and memories of how the world used to be, ‘ I remember reading in a timeworn history book that all the holidays used to be cramped into the winter months; something called Halloween? The heroine America Singer is chosen to enter a reality T.V. competition to win the heart of the marriageable prince; Prince Maxon. She is a reluctant heroine, shy, diffident, not a spotlight hogger. Maxon is a product of the royal house; rigid, rule bound but striving to be human. The author does not have the sass and bravado of Kat Spear and her writing can be flat and pedantic at times but young teenage girls (or boys) will love the simple, classic story line and the direct connection between their screen projected world and the play ground of America Singer.

The selection by Kiera Cass - book cover
Its the last girl standing.

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid is that disastrous quagmire of love when one friend falls in love with the other friend. As a person whose friends (both male and female) were always falling in love with me until I gently had to point out that I was too fine a specimen for them ever to have a chance; this is a familiar playing field. Best friends Dave and Julia have made a list to survive high school; no going to parties where the invite simply states beer, no dating teachers (although relief teachers are acceptable) and NO falling in love with your best friend. My best friend in high school was a female, head girl, Dux of French with strong Christian leanings so this was not going to happen but Julia is delightful ‘Julia had manged to get herself covered in cupcake mixture. It coated her brown hair and the tip of her nose and there was a smear of butter on her chin. Dave had to resist the urge to call her adorable.’ Dave has pined for her for four years and now they are heading off to uni. But, and this is a big but, the ending is not all you for see. I shall say no more but I did like how this story told life as it is and not how we wish it to be. Teenagers need to read this more often I think. The writing is very tight and explorative, highlights the nooks and crannies of our psyches.

never always sometimes - book coverThis one is for the thinkers.

I’m going to throw in a popular love song from 2015 that I know teenagers were smashing themselves around to and that confidently explains the miasma of love. I often sing this to hubby when he needs redirection.

Bright  by  Echosmith

I think the universe is on my side
Heaven and Earth have finally aligned
Days are good and that’s the way it should be
You sprinkle star dust on my pillow case
It’s like a moonbeam brushed across my face
Nights are good and that’s the way it should be
You make me sing oh, la, la, La
You make a girl go oh oh
I’m in love, love Did you see that shooting star tonight?
Were you dazzled by the same constellation?
Did you and Jupiter conspire to get me?
I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right
‘Cause now I’m shining bright, so bright
Bright, so brightAnd I see colors in a different way
You make what doesn’t matter fade to grey
Life is good and that’s the way it should beYou make me sing oh, la, la, la
You make a girl go oh oh
I’m in love, loveDid you see that shooting star tonight?
Were you dazzled by the same constellation?
Did you and Jupiter conspire to get me?
I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right
‘Cause now I’m shining bright (oh) so bright
And I get lost (oh) in your eyesDid you see that shooting star tonight?
Were you dazzled by the same constellation?
Did you and Jupiter conspire to get me?
I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right
I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right
I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right*
‘Cause now I’m shining bright, so bright
Bright, so bright
Bright, so bright
And I get lost in your eyes tonight

Not that I am a video game player but I have it under good authority that love does exist in electronic games. As this is the only time my interest is sparked,  I shall peruse the intricacies of Geralt of Rivia and Triss Merigold in The Witcher.


According to my husband and the many reviews I read (one), their relationship is shaped by player choice. Good ole Geralt has a veritable smorgasboard of women following him, fording hill and dale, battling elves and gnome like creatures. Their love is a result of individual decision, much like our aforementioned stories. This leads me to that eighties classic that I’m sure you all still sing if only silently, and in enclosed places.

Together In Electric Dreams Lyrics  by Human League

I only knew you for a while
I never saw your smile
Till it was time to go
Time to go away (time to go away)
Sometimes it’s hard to recognise
Love comes as a surprise
And it’s too late
It’s just too late to stay
Too late to stay[Chorus]
We’ll always be together
However far it seems
(Love never ends)
We’ll always be together
Together in electric dreams
Because the friendship that you gave
Has taught me to be brave
No matter where I go, I’ll never find a better prize
(Find a better prize)
Though you’re miles and miles away
I see you every day
I don’t have to try
I just close my eyes
I close my eyes[Chorus]

Yay!!! and another yay!  Although, together in electric dreams becomes a problem when you haven’t set foot out doors for about 8 months. There’s a name for that and various conventions that you may end up at if you don’t ultimately seek help. Enjoy in moderation.

The discussed YA books and many more are available at City of Cockburn libraries. Check our catalogue for availability.

Photo by binababy123